This summer I had a chance to visit Yellowstone National Park. In no way was I prepared for how big this park actually is. I spent three days in the park and was able to cover the major sights, so here are my top ten tips for exploring the west side of the park.
- Go early and bring cash to get in! Getting in took us about 25 minutes but once we were in the park it was much faster to get in and traffic wasn’t as bad. It’s $30 per car to get in but it is good for 7 days of visiting the park. So it’s an amazing deal!
- Plan your route ahead of time and choose your must see stops. The parking lots of the main areas fill up fast so know where you want to stop as it will help you save time.
- Look for areas to pull out to take in the scenery and take pictures. Some of the coolest spots weren’t attractions in the park but were breathtaking.
- Seeing the Buffalo. The buffalo in the park are in the most random places. A lot of the times they are at the side of the road. Do not stop in the middle of the road to take pictures (as there are park rangers wherever the buffalo are enforcing this) as it creates a lot of traffic jams. There are however a lot of pull outs where you can get out. You may just need to walk a bit.
- Old Faithful was one of our last stops of the day, and we got there around 3pm in the afternoon. It is probably one of the most crowded areas of the park. I would recommend getting there early to watch the geyser. It goes off about every hour and 45 mins. If you want a good spot for photos, show up at least 30 mins before it’s due to erupt next as it gets crowded!!! We were able to snag front row seats by getting there early which was definitely worth it!
- Lodge outside of the park. We were able to save a lot of money by staying about 1 hr outside of the park in Bozeman, Montana. Not only was it quieter and less congested, but it allowed us to see more of the surrounding areas.
- Bring Snacks. There are stores and some restaurants inside the park but they are few and far between. Bring snacks and drinks, so you don’t have to rely on finding them in the park as it might take you out of your way.
- Grand Prismatic Geyser. This was another crowded area where parking was an issue. We ended up finding a parking spot after circling the parking lot a few times. If you want to photograph the geyser, it would definitely be good to visit this one early as it was insanely busy and crowded with people. Since you need to use the boardwalks for all of the geyser pools, it makes it a little tricky to navigate.
- Biscuit Basin. This area had a strong sulfur smell (like rotten eggs) so not a place where you want to linger for a super long time. Still a super cool area but compared to the grand prismatic area not quite as impressive. Still a must see though!
- Take Your Time. This is probably the most important tip as everything took a lot longer to see than I originally thought, so don’t be in a rush and allow a lot of time to explore each area.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve been to Yellowstone before or want to go there!